Be a Black-Belt Motivational Master

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Are you a black-belt motivational master?  Do you effortlessly achieve your goals (whilst wearing a cool uniform)?

If not don’t panic – help is at hand to boost your motivational mastery – read on.

Author Dan Pink offered some surprising insights into what really motivates us at a recent talk give to the RSA:

Clearly, the carrot of money simply isn’t enough to get most people motivated.  In fact psychological tests show that money can impair our ability to be successful.

So, if money isn’t the key to personal motivation, what is?

Pink identifies three factors that really do seem to get people fired up and creative- autonomy, mastery and purpose.

He shows how these factors motivate people in organizations to take ownership of their work, fully engage with a problem, and strive for success.

The great news is that these concepts can also help to develop your motivational skills.  Understanding these areas will put  you on the path to being a black belt motivational master.


career coaching, career change, work you love, outstanding career, thriving business, remarkable life

Dance to your own tune

Autonomy is about being in control of yourself and being able to set your own path.  It means you’re not beholden to others for direction and validation.

When you take responsibility for your actions and the outcomes, you create the freedom to be successful.

Learning to operate this way creates a rock solid platform for life.  It creates the foundation to express yourself, be creative, explore and grow.

Autonomy shifts the focus of motivation.  Rather than looking to others for recognition, you find it inside – you dance to your own drum.

Take an autonomous moment to yourself

One way to cultivate this is to have an autonomous moment.  Take the spirit of the video and give yourself 15 minutes every day to work on something just for you- whatever that may be.  It may be fostering a hobby (I am on a gardening kick at the moment), exploring your next career step or some creative self-expression.

For this project, find a space where you can’t be distracted.  Be yourself and do it purely for you.  Take responsibility for doing this to the best of your ability and be responsible only to yourself.  Enjoy the time and see what amazing things you can achieve.

As you act autonomously you’ll find your confidence and creativity start to grow and your motivation sky-rocketing.  A black-belt motivational master takes responsibility for their actions.


A clear sense of purpose drives people to do remarkable things.  Steve Jobs has a vision to “put a dint in the universe” and this has driven him to build up Apple over 30 years to its current position.

Finding your sense of mission and direction provides the context for everything you do.  It creates a guiding star to inspire and guide your actions.  It is dynamite for motivation.

Finding your purpose

Finding an overarching vision typically takes self-reflection and commitment to find that spark inside yourself.  Here are two approaches to help you find your purpose:

Stephen Covey provides this tool to write your personal mission statement – a great first step to finding your purpose.

Read more about the amazing work of Viktor Frankl and use the questions to find a sense of inner purpose.

To find more motivation, start introducing your purpose into your daily decision making.  A black-belt motivational master knows the deeper purpose behind every decision they make.


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Are you a motivational master?

As humans, we have an urge to get better at things.  Being an expert is great because others acknowledge your skills and you satisfy your inner craving for growth.

As Dan Pink notes, this is the drive behind the open source movement where well paid professionals contribute their time for free to these projects.  Developing their skills and expertise is the carrot that drives them to get involved.

People who devote themselves to mastery tend to be focused, motivated and successful.  What’s more they also tend to have more fun, as they are doing something they find fascinating.

Developing mastery takes time and practice.  The widely touted statistics suggests that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert.

Yet if you’re doing something that you find stimulating and absorbing that could be the best 10,000 hours you ever spend.

Three steps to Mastery

1. Start with the end in mind – Figure out what your area of fascination and interest is and what mastery would look like for you.  This may be closely related to your purpose.

2. Create the master plan – work out the key steps to get there – Who should you be talking to?  What do you need to learn?  What experience do you need to get?  How can you teach this?  How do you communicate and share your mastery?

3. Practice, Practice, Practice. Get to work and put in the hours. Nothing beats practice.

Striving for mastery this way means that you can enjoy the journey as much as the destination and that is the key to finding endless motivation.

When you develop autonomy, purpose and mastery, you’ll find yourself on the path to outstanding work and a remarkable life.

Over to You

  • What motivates you?
  • How important is it for you to feel autonomous and in control?
  • What is your purpose and vision in life?
  • What are you striving to master and how are you going about it?

Please leave a comment and share.

Picture credit - D Sharon Pruitt, Gypsy4 (Flickr Creative Commons)

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  1. Phil
    June 15, 2010 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    What did you think about the video? How do you find motivation? How important is autonomy in your workplace? What is your purpose? Please leave a comment and share.

  2. June 15, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Really cool Phil!

    I can’t believe that the idea that motivation and performance are not all abut money is still something strange for most people, managers and organizations! A lot of people are still thinking about motivation using principles which applied in the industrial area. But that era is long gone.
    .-= Eduard @ People Skills Decoded´s last blog ..Why being yourself is hard and how to actually achieve it =-.

  3. June 15, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Phil, I saw this video few weeks ago and I LOVED It. I don’t watch much at all on YouTube so it came to me via a colleague but it was brilliant – and a brilliant master at drawing. Thank you for highlighting it and breaking it down further….!! Always on top of good content and ideas.

  4. June 15, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    Wow Phil. Thanks for sharing that. That is great on so many levels. It is a nice scientific breakdown of why we are all here on this planet: To continually create grander and grander versions of ourselves. There is no greater reward than creating ourselves anew by having breakthrough after breakthrough.
    .-= rob white´s last blog ..What’s Right with You? =-.

  5. June 16, 2010 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    Hey Phil,
    Nice post! What I liked about this video was when he mentions when the profit becomes more “umoored” than the purpose motive that peole don’t do great things. I thing great things take time and truly enjoying the entire process as a journey. I don’t have a regular 9-5, but my motive is mainly to inspire others with my own creative expression, and providing value to people that can benefit from my messages.

  6. June 16, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Hi Phil,

    Without question, I’m motivated to challenge the status quo, both inner and outer. I question everything. Too many of us fumble through our one precious life doing what “Simon Says.”

    Great video. The world’s upside down and backwards for sure.

    Thx. Giulietta, Inspirational Rebel
    .-= Giulietta the Muse´s last blog ..Do you want to experience what the Greeks call Zoe? =-.

  7. June 16, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Hey Phil,

    I saw this video last year and instantly became a big fan of Dan Pink.

    Autonomy is something that I’ve been talking to be people about a lot recently and Eduard mentioned that many think that money, motivation and mastery are related but they quest the equation the wrong way around.

    Brilliant insights!
    .-= Amit Sodha – The Power Of Choice´s last blog ..Video – How To Solve Any Puzzle In Life =-.

  8. June 16, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    I meant to say I saw his TED talk last year on the same subject.
    .-= Amit Sodha – The Power Of Choice´s last blog ..Video – How To Solve Any Puzzle In Life =-.

  9. June 16, 2010 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    I think autonomy is one of the things I value more than anything else. I always say money doesn’t motivate anyone, because it is inanimate and can’t do anything. It is what that money can do for you that is motivating.

    A quick values inventory will be essential in determining what is truly motivating. Great post, thank you.

  10. June 17, 2010 at 12:36 am | Permalink

    Good stuff here, Phil. I certainly see autonomy as a big motivator for my son who’s only 3. More than candy or toys, he wants to be able to do what he wants when he wants and gladly sacrifices a lot of the basics. It’s not surprising that grownups want the same things as toddlers.

  11. June 17, 2010 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Great video! What motivates me? To know that my little everyday actions can make our world a better place.

    Dan Pink is brilliant.
    .-= Tess The Bold Life´s last blog ..5 Ways Fear Can Mess Up Your Blog and Your Life =-.

  12. June 17, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the reminder about this video. I recall seeing it but it is great to be reminded! What motivates me? Loving what I do is what keeps me going everyday. I love the writing, sharing my story and showing my creative work on my blog.
    .-= Evelyn Lim´s last blog ..10 Sure-Fire Tips To Making Creative Visualization Fun! =-.

  13. Phil
    June 17, 2010 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    @Eduard – fair point – money has been proven to be a hygiene factor for people’s happiness and motivation. Once that low level is passed it really is all about the opportunity to develop and find stimulus and reward. I guess the world is still hanging onto that industrial age paradigm that links money and security. Hopefully we can move on to something more sustainable.

    @Farnoosh – glad you enjoyed the video. The RSA is a hotbed of creativity and great ideas here in the UK and their site is highly recommended.

    @Rob – agreed. This really unlocks a lot of the reasons why talented people get stuck in a job that doesn’t make them happy. Chasing the wrong carrot is tiring and stressful. It is when that creativity is unlocked and given room to grow that true motivation occurs.

    @Baker – I know you have a strong personal sense of purpose and use that to create an impact in the world. Keep focused on the long-run and you’ll get what you deserve.

    @Giulietta – Challenging the status quo is important and you have the freedom of thought to do that. Keep helping others to do the same thing.

    @Amit – I think autonomy is way underrated by so many people. When I hear a sense of constraint and frustration with a work situation it is usually the inability to truly release someone’s talent that is behind that. Keep talking about this – it is a vital component of a thriving and motivating career path.

    @Joshua – money is such a short term fix and it just creates a habit for needing more. You’re right that this comes down to values based living – that is always the starting point for a life of integrity. When that is in place, motivation comes naturally.

    @Belinda – ha, sometimes children teach us the lessons we should already know. Kids have a wonderful sense of freedom and creativity and get motivated by what is fun and energizing. They can have this beaten out of them by the rational, money driven, cynical world. Taking that back is like a second childhood.

    @Tess – glad to see you over here! I love your motivation – it is the little every day steps that build into a big difference. That is great to have such a sense of purpose about what you do.

    @Evelyn – glad you enjoyed it. It sounds like you have autonomy, purpose and are pursuing mastery – a perfect combo. Keep it up.

  14. June 18, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Hi Phil.

    I think money is not enough of a motivator because it’s not doable. ‘Make money’ is not a concrete goal. If we knew how to go about making a pile of money, we’d be doing it. If we believed we could and knew the steps to take, we would.

    The key is in your first ‘step’ above: Figure out what our areas of interest and fascination are. Once we know that, we can then think of action verbs. Goals can only be reached through a series of actions.

    I think knowing our purpose is a huge energizer. Money will be a result — not the goal. I can write. I can paint. But I can’t ‘money.’

    Thanks for a great post — I shared it on Twitter, and printed it out to share with my husband. (We take printouts to read when we go for coffee.) :)
    .-= Barb Hartsook´s last blog ..Study Dates Then and Now =-.

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